Police violence against reporters during a mass rally in Bulgaria

On November 16, a mass rally of football fans in Sofia, Bulgaria, against the Bulgarian Football Union leadership quickly escalated into unrest. The Ministry of Interior reported 38 arrests and numerous injuries among both civilians and law enforcement officers. The Association of European Journalists Bulgaria tracked at least 9 cases of police violence and abuse of power against reporters, covering the event.

  • One such incident involved Dani Yordanov, a reporter for Gospodari.com, and cameraman Mario Gospodinov, who were broadcasting live on “Gen. Gurko” Street. Despite identifying themselves as media personnel, they were hit with batons by the police. This moment was captured after 59:27 in this video.
  • In another case, a police officer demanded from the Dnevnik photojournalist Georgi Kozhuharov to delete his footage of police aggression against protesters. Kozhuharov was wearing a helmet marked with a “PRESS” sign.  With the support of other journalists and a NOVA TV crew, Kozhuharov stood his ground, and the officer eventually backed down.
  • Darik Radio reporter Nikolay Ganchev, while broadcasting live near the Sports Palace, was briefly detained along with protesters and bystanders. He was released after the police noticed his accreditation badge. His colleague Julian Sutev also faced baton hits and sought medical help for the injuries he suffered. The full recording of Darik live broadcasting is here.
  • – A photojournalist from an international agency, who prefers to remain anonymous, was sprayed in the face with pepper spray by a police officer on “Ivan Vazov” Street during a police raid in the nearby “Bar 75.”
  • Sportlive.bg journalists Kristian Ivanov and Emil Georgiev were punched and hit with batons while filming how police officers were assaulting a protester. Despite identifying themselves as journalists, the violence continued, as captured in their live broadcast.
  • “Mach Telegraf” reporter Nikolay Parashkevov suffered a severe head injury from a baton hit while he was lying face to the ground near “Gen. Gurko” Street. He sought hospital treatment for a fractured skull. 

The above listed incidents raise serious concerns about the state of press freedom and the standards for treatment of journalists covering social unrest. The international organization Reporters without Borders has issued a statement about the described events from November 16.

Photo: Georgi Kozhuharov/Dnevnik

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